The young monk who is accused of killing his superior at a pagoda in the capital on Monday looks set to escape a murder charge after police sent him to court on a lesser count yesterday.
The Venerable Thach Khan, 34, died on Monday after being stabbed in the neck at the Samaki Rainsy pagoda, home to dozens of Kampuchea Krom monks involved in last year’s anti-Vietnam protests.
Teng Sino, Meanchey district police chief, said suspect Ly Toeng, also known as Chan Sophak, 17, was sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday charged with violence in aggravating circumstances causing unintentional death – Article 224 of the penal code.
“Police accused him only of violence, because there was violence between the two monks,” he said, explaining why a murder charge had not been laid.
Deputy prosecutor Chea Meth confirmed yesterday that Toeng had been questioned in court over the lesser charge, which can still bring seven to 15 years in prison.
“I have not yet charged him in court,” Meth said. “I will question him more tomorrow.”
The National Police said on its website yesterday the suspect alleged the victim had physically abused him many times. “The deputy monk was always inviting him to go inside his room and would then hit and kick him virtually daily,” the statement said, quoting the suspect.
According to Toeng, he had stabbed Khan with a sharp knife because he could not bear “the suffering” of another beating.
But Lay Lat, a fellow monk, denied this. “I reject the claim that [Khan] beat him. The deputy chief always told monks to be good. I don’t believe he beat a monk,” he said.
The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Association for Human Rights and Development issued a statement yesterday expressing profound regret at Khan’s death.
Echoing sentiments expressed on Monday – that the attack was political rather than personal – the association called for a thorough investigation. “The association … asks the authorities to continue to investigate to arrest those behind this and bring them to justice,” the statement says.
Sieng Sovanna, Samaki Rainsy’s chief monk, said two of Toeng’s relatives had visited the pagoda to pay respects.
“They donated some money and then left. They don’t want to face problems with people here,” he said.